News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.



FOTOT Planning To Buy, Renovate Oneonta Theater

Elaine Bresee To Lead Effort

FOTOT Planning To Buy,

Renovate Oneonta Theater

Bob Brzozowski, GOHS executive director and treasurer of the revived FOTOT, discusses plans to revive the Oneonta Theater. (James Cummings/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

The revived Friends of Oneonta Theater elected Elaine Bresee, center, as president; Elizabeth Dunn, secretary, and Bob Brzozowski, treasurer
at an organizational meeting Friday, Jan. 17, at the Oneonta History Center.

ONEONTA – By the end of the year, Bob Brzozowski hopes, the newly revived Friends of the Oneonta Theater will have site control of the theater.

“We’ve seen places like Walton, Norwich, Bainbridge and Worcester re-open their theaters,” he said. “If small towns can do it, so can we.”

Brzozowski, Greater Oneonta Historical Society executive director, is one of three new board members of revived FOTOT. Elaine Bresee was elected president; Elizabeth Dunn, SUNY Oneonta Dean of Liberal Arts, secretary, and Brzozowski, treasurer. Ellen Pope, Otsego 2000 executive director, also joined the board.

The original Friends of the Oneonta Theatre formed in 2008, when the theater went up for sale.

When entrepreneur Tom Cormier bought it in 2009, FOTOT helped him with theater restoration. But they soon parted ways, and although the group became less and less active, it still maintained its not-for-profit status.

When the Oneonta Theater went up for sale in 2015, GOHS, in collaborate with FOTOT members and other interested people, won a $50,000 Technical Assistance grant a hired Duncan Webb, Webb Management, one of the country’s leading theater consultants, to do a feasibility plan.

Webb’s recommendations are available on the GOHS website.

“The theater has good bones, but there’s work to be done,” said Brzozowski. “It’s going to take some major renovation projects.”

$2 million could not only restore the theater to working order, but re-open the two balconies and expand the lobby, Brzozowski said.

“It would be a completely different building,” he said. “We could go in and uncover the original murals, we could do an exhibit on all of the people who performed there. There’s so much more we can do beyond just getting it open.”

Rather than forming a new not-for-profit to buy and restore the theater, Brzozowski and the remaining FOTOT members revived the Friends organization.

“As we got closer and closer to what we wanted to do, we realized it was just easier that way,” he said.

The reformed FOTOT will work to update some of its  rules and bylaws to make sure it is in compliance with newer New York State regulations. “The past members did a great job in setting things up, but there are a lot of other things that have changed at the state level,” he said.

At an organizational meeting Friday, Jan. 17, at GOHS, attendees voted to join the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON), whose local office is managed by Andrew Marietta, the county representative.

“We also joined the League of Historic American Theaters,” Brzozowski said. “We weren’t part of that before.”

In the spring, Brzozowski hopes to launch a capital campaign, after the group determines how much they want to raise – and how people can get involved to help.

“One of the models we’re looking at is like the State Theater in Ithaca,” he said. “When people make a donation of a certain amount, they own a share of the theater, so it’s really a community-owned theater.”

And more than that, they hope to get support from other institutions, including SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College, and said a “shared booking agent” would go a long ways to strengthening ties to Foothills

“Wouldn’t it be great to have the Catskill Symphony Orchestra play in that beautiful theater?” he said. “We could open it up to the Glimmerglass Film Festival as an additional venue. It’s got great acoustics, and it’s a shame it’s not being used.”

Exhibit Dramatizes Once (And Future?) Theater


Exhibit Dramatizes Once

(And Future?) Theater

At the new GOHS exhibit, FOTOT President Patrice Macaluso discusses the Oneonta Theatre’s history of entertaining Oneonta, and her hopes for its revival. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – If we want to save the Oneonta Theatre, Patrice Macaluso says, we cannot just look to the past.

“It has always changed with the times,” she said. “We can’t get wedded to what it was.”

The changing face of the Oneonta Theatre is the subject of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society’s newest exhibit, “The Oneonta Theatre: Reflecting Popular Culture Since 1897,” curated by Macaluso.

The exhibit traces the whole history of the venue, from the very first show in 1898 – “The Sporting Dutchess” starring Madame Modjeska, the most famous actress of the day – up to the present, where a recent marketing study and feasibility study hold the key to whether the downtown institution can be saved – or not.

$3M Would Reopen Theatre, But With Foothills Involved

$3M Would Reopen Theatre,

But With Foothills Involved

Patrice Macaluso, Friends of the Oneonta Theater (FOTOT) president, said she believes the conversation started by Webb Associates’ strategic plan for the for-now closed cinema constitutes “progress.” Her remarks came after Duncan Webb, at podium, reported it would take $3 million in repairs and renovations to reopen the theater, and $300,000 annually would need to be generated in revenues. For the Oneonta to fully flower would take $10 million, his study concluded. Webb said SUNY Oneonta is not interested in collaborating at this time, and FOTOT should seek a collaboration with Foothills Performing Arts Center. He added, “Oneonta Theater really shouldn’t proceed independently.”  (Jennifer Hill/
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